Among the most attractive destinations for foreigners looking for job opportunities, you can find the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. And not only for work but also for businessmen who want to set up a business in Saudi Arabia. Before starting to live and work in this country, it is important to research the legal requirements you need. The first and most important is the IQAMA or Muqeem identification document. Surely, you are wondering what is IQAMA. This is a residence permit that all expatriates with work or dependent visas must have.
In this article, we will explore the importance of what is IQAMA in Saudi Arabia. The idea is that you learn about the requirements and procedures for obtaining it. In addition, we will tell you what are the advantages and disadvantages of having this document. Finally, you will see some tips and recommendations for its renewal. On the other hand, we will talk a little about the types of visas that exist in KSA, especially those for work. Thus, you can avoid any fine or sanction that we will also show you in the course of the writing.
Understanding the Basics of Iqama
The first thing to discover is what is IQAMA in Saudi, they also know it as Muqeem. In short, it is a residence permit that all expats with a work visa must have. The IQAMA serves as proof of the legal status that the foreigner has in the country. In addition, it provides information on the type of work that the person can perform and the employer that is linked.
The IQAMA is an essential document for foreigners to carry out any procedure in Saudi Arabia. And not only that, but it also allows you to carry out different financial, commercial, and other types of activities. For instance, sending money abroad, opening a bank account, traveling within or outside the country, and more. In summary, to answer the question of what is IQAMA in Saudi Arabia, it is an identification document for foreigners working in the kingdom.
On the other hand, you should know that the IQAMA contains all the personal and biometric information of the foreigner. Among the data included, the full name, date of birth, photo, nationality, fingerprint, and identification number can be mentioned. In addition, it tells you what the expiration date of the residence permit is. Generally, it is usually between one and two years but not more than that time.
In order to apply for the IQAMA, the procedure you must follow will vary according to certain conditions. The first is the type of visa you hold and the second is the country of origin of the applicant. This process is not difficult, but it can be cumbersome if not done correctly. So, if you are a businessman and want to start a company in KSA, you must understand what is Saudi IQAMA and apply for it.
Defining IQAMA: Residency Permit and its Significance
When explaining what is Saudi IQAMA, you saw that it is a residence permit for foreign workers. It is important to note that to request this identification you must have a legitimate employment contract. Another option is an invitation from the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Ministry of the Interior of Saudi Arabia is in charge of issuing the IQAMA and it is valid for between one and two years. Everything will depend on your condition in the country.
There are many reasons why the meaning of this document is of paramount importance in the kingdom. The first is because it serves as proof of the holder’s legal residency status in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In other words, any foreign worker who has an IQAMA can live in the country and carry out some commercial activities.
Another important aspect when trying to understand what is IQAMA ID in Saudi Arabia is why it is necessary. Certain activities are essential for any individual that they cannot do without this document. For instance, renting a home, obtaining a driver’s license, paying for basic services, both public and private, and more.
Finally, it is important to highlight that the IQAMA application must be made within 3 months of the person’s arrival in the country. It is essential with an employment visa to start the process and must be renewed periodically online.
IQAMA ID Explained: Purpose, Features, and Usage
Once you understand, what is IQAMA, you can learn more about what is IQAMA ID. All foreigners who work and live in the country have access to this identification card. This includes any type of profession. For instance, lawyers in KSA, engineers, teachers, laborers, and more. If they do not have this card, they will not be able to practice in the country.
The IQAMA ID serves as a residence and work permit, you should always have this card on you. The reason is simple, at any time and place they can ask you for it and if you do not deliver it you can have legal problems. In conclusion, if you go to work, shop, or go for a walk, you must have your IQAMA ID at hand.
This ID is a small, rigid, rectangular card. In addition, the Ministry of the Interior is also in charge of this matter. On this card, you will see some relevant personal data. Among the most important is the name of the holder in English and Arabic, the IQAMA number, place, and date of issue. There is also information about the job you do, for instance, the name of the employer.
Like the IQAMA, this identification has multiple purposes. For example, traveling in and out of the country, opening a bank account, and other basic activities.
Explore the Different Types of IQAMA in Saudi Arabia
Within what you should know about what IQAMA is, there are also all the existing types of IQAMA. They are classified according to the purpose and duration of stay in the country of the foreigner. Also, each of these IQAMA types has an associated profession. This indicates the occupation or activity of the holder. Next, you will see the description of some of the types of IQAMA. In particular, the most common and important.
Work IQAMA: Of all the types you find this is the most common. All foreign workers working in the country must have one. Its validity is two years and renewal must be done annually.
Dependent IQAMA: This identification is for all relatives of foreign workers who arrive in the country. Of course, as long as they enter the kingdom with a dependent visa. Its validity is the same as that of the work IQAMA of the main relative or provider.
IQAMA of residence: Another type of IQAMA that exists is that of residence. Foreign residents who do not have a job in the country have access but decide to reside there. It allows you to carry out some commercial activities and serves as proof of residence for the holder in Saudi Arabia.
Permanent IQAMA: Also known as a green card. Only some expatriates have it because they must meet certain requirements. In addition, they have to pay quite high fees. Among the advantages it provides is residing in the country with their families without a Saudi sponsor.
Transferable IQAMA: Benefits and Implications
The first thing to know is what is transferable IQAMA. This is one whose employer or sponsor agrees to transfer sponsorship from another employer. This is in case the worker wants to change jobs and, therefore, the employer. The transferable IQAMA is a benefit for the holder or employee.
The reason for this is very simple, it is because they can look for better salaries and job opportunities in the country. Of course, without having to leave KSA and re-enter with a new work visa. There are two ways to request it, of course, one easier than the other. The first is online, through the Absher portal. And the second is done manually, according to the category of the sponsor and the type of employer.
One of the important things is that you have to know what is the procedure for IQAMA transfer. For this, you must have and comply with a set of requirements and conditions. For instance, obtain the consent of the current sponsor, and comply with labor and immigration regulations. In addition, the corresponding fees have to be paid for the application process.
Finally, it is important to highlight that there is a condition for which the transferable IQAMA cannot be applied. This is if the holder is on the run or under huroob. To withdraw from this state, you have to pay the fine and cancel the huroob.
Non-Transferable IQAMA: Restrictions and Scope
On the other hand, there is the non-transferable IQAMA, which is when the employer does not agree to transfer the sponsorship to another employer. As a result, the holder cannot change jobs until the employer agrees. One of the biggest disadvantages of this is that the holder will have certain limitations to carry out commercial activities. For instance, enter and leave the country.
The non-transferable IQAMA interprets it as a type of restriction for the owner. Because you will not be able to search for or take advantage of other salary and employment options in the country. In addition, it forces him to remain with the same employer until he decides to do without him or until the end of the contract.
There are other reasons for having a non-transferable IQAMA. One of them will be in a fugue or huroob state. Another may be having a profession not eligible for a job transfer. And the last one is to belong to a category or sector that has protection from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.
It is important to keep in mind that the non-transferable IQAMA can become transferable. For this, certain conditions must be met, everything will depend on the reason why you have this IQAMA. Among the most common solutions are canceling the huroob or obtaining permission from the current sponsor. Other options are to pay the fine or change your profession or sector.
IQAMA Procedures and Regulations: Navigating the System
The identification document that proves that a foreigner can work and live in Saudi Arabia is the IQAMA. This must be requested as soon as possible upon arrival in the country. In this way, you can apply through your employer or sponsor. This must provide all the necessary documents, such as the employment contract, passport, medical certificate, etc.
The IQAMA can be issued or renewed for different periods. Here you will find periods of three, six, nine, and twelve months. All this will be according to the preference of the owner and the corresponding rates. Therefore, it must be renewed before its expiration, or fines and penalties will apply. Additionally, you can verify your IQAMA online through the Absher portal.
In the online portal, you can check the status of the same, its validity, the sponsor, and the IQAMA category. On the other hand, depending on certain conditions, another employer or sponsor can transfer it. It is extremely important that you always have the owner because it will be necessary for certain procedures and activities within the country.
The IQAMA Transfer Process: Step-by-Step Guide
- First: The new employer must upload the employment contract to the QIWA platform. This is the official portal of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.
- Second: Secondly, the employee must accept the job offer through QIWA. You must enter with your username and password and in case of using the Absher application, only your fingerprint.
- Third: The current employer must either accept this transfer request through the QIWA or reject it if deemed valid.
- Fourth: The employee must wait a period of 30, 60, or 90 days depending on the contract for the notice period to complete.
- Fifth: Your new employer must complete the transfer through QIWA, paying any applicable fees. The rates may vary depending on the category and the sector to which the employee belongs.
- Sixth: The employee must now register for the new IQAMA, which will now have the name of their new employer.
If you wish to check the status of your IQAMA, this can be viewed online via the Absher portal. This way, you will be able to see the name of your current employer.
Addressing IQAMA Expiry: Fines, Renewal, and Consequences
The first thing you should know is that it is extremely important to renew the IQAMA, before the expiration date. Otherwise, you can face legal consequences and fines, you can even face deportation. The fine or consequence for expiration will vary according to several factors.
To check the status of IQAMA, you can use the Absher online portal. The Ministry of the Interior of Saudi Arabia provides this official service to facilitate the process. You must create an account and then, you just have to enter the IQAMA number and the verification code. Later, you will see the information you are looking for on the screen.
In case you need to renew your ID, you must pay an annual fee. This will vary according to the category of the employer and the type of work. In addition, you must have valid health insurance and have no violation of the IQAMA system. To avoid fines, the IQAMA must be renewed at least 3 days before its expiration.
If you need to renew your identification online, you only have to perform the following steps.
- Sign in or create an account on Absher.
- Enter the Services section and choose the IQAMA Renewal option.
- Enter the IQAMA number and the verification code.
- Pay the renewal fee.
- Wait for the request to be processed and to receive confirmation by SMS.
- Print or download the new IQAMA.
The renewal time of the IQAMA depends on several factors. For instance, employer category, health insurance status, type of job, and availability of funds. Generally, the renewal process will take between 3 and 7 business days. This is from the time the fee is paid until the confirmation is received.
Financial Aspects of IQAMA: Costs, Fees, and Penalties
When discussing the financial aspects of IQAMA with a person who wishes to immigrate to Saudi Arabia, certain questions normally arise. What is the cost of IQAMA? or What is the IQAMA renewal fee in Saudi? are very common questions. For this reason, we will talk about this below:
- The fee for issuing or renewing the IQAMA is 650 Saudi Riyals. In the case of renewal. You have to pay this fee annually.
- Work permit fee: This will depend on the percentage of Saudi nationals employed by the company. In this way, it can vary between 700 and 9,600 Saudi riyals per year.
- A dependent fee costs 400 Saudi riyals per year for each dependent you have.
- Medical insurance will cost 500 Saudi riyals per person per year.
The fines that are related to the IQAMA can be for different reasons. It may be due to the delay in the renewal of this, the loss, and even the damage to IQAMA. In addition, you can receive a fine for violating the rules of residence. In this way, the cost of the fines can vary between 500 and 25,000 Saudi riyals depending on the type of offense committed.
If you want to pay the IQAMA fee, please enter the Absher portal and follow these steps:
- Select the services option and then select payments
- Now select the residence fees option and then which one you want to pay. In this case, you must select IQAMA
- Enter your IQAMA number and the year for which you are going to pay the fee.
- Verify that the amount is correct and confirm the payment
- You should keep the receipt for future reference.
IQAMA Cost Breakdown: Application, Issuance, and More
The IQAMA is a residence permit required by foreigners living and working in Saudi Arabia. By breaking down the costs a little more you can notice the following:
- The IQAMA application: To make the first application for your IQAMA you will have to pay a fee of 2,000 Saudi Riyals.
- IQAMA Issuance: A fee of 650 Saudi Riyals must be paid for the issuance of IQAMA. On the other hand, the renewal has the same cost, but this fee must be paid annually. In addition, the application for the issuance of the IQAMA is through the Qiwa portal.
- The work permit: You must pay 800 Saudi riyals monthly for the work permit. Furthermore, this must be done a minimum of three months in advance.
- Dependent Fee: For each dependent living with a foreign person, you will have to pay an annual fee of 400 Saudi Riyals.
- Medical insurance: Valid and quality medical insurance must be contracted for both the foreigner and their dependents.
Penalty for Expired IQAMA: Legal Implications and Solutions
What if my IQAMA is expired and what is the penalty for an expired IQAMA? These questions are very common since many people are unaware of the consequences of their IQAMA having expired. For this reason, it is important to prevent your IQAMA from expiring as it is a serious violation of residence law in Saudi Arabia.
Checking the status of IQAMA is crucial to avoid all kinds of problems. Different consequences will depend on certain factors. However, this act is still a crime, and the more serious the offense, the more serious the penalties will be. So, what is the fine for IQAMA expiry? And what consequences can I face for an expired IQAMA? These are questions that are explained below:
- The first time the IQAMA is not renewed before its expiration date, a fine of 500 Saudi riyals will be received.
- The second time the IQAMA is not renewed before its expiration date, a higher fine will be imposed, i.e. 1,000 Saudi Riyals.
- If you are caught with a companion who has their IQAMA expired or does not have legal identification, you will be fined 10,000 Saudi Riyals.
- You can face imprisonment for a month or more depending on your case.
- You can be deported from the country.
For this reason, the IQAMA must be renewed before its expiration date and avoid any type of inconvenience. On the other hand, try to renew your IQAMA in advance as this is a very simple process. In addition, it is a quick process where after following all the steps the IQAMA is renewed automatically.
IQAMA Renewal Fee in Saudi Arabia: Exploring the Details
The IQAMA is a residence permit in Saudi Arabia that foreigners who live and work in the country must have. In addition, this is valid for one year and must be renewed before it expires. Some factors affect the renewal of your IQAMA that you will need to take into account. Next, we will observe what factors we refer to.
Employer Type: Whether your employer is a government company, private, or even an individual.
What proportion of Saudi employees does the company have: If the company to which it belongs has more or less 50% of employees who are Saudis.
The number of dependents: If you have relatives who depend on your IQAMA visa.
In general, the cost of renewing your IQAMA will be associated with:
- The work permit fee will change according to the type and proportion of the employer. This can range from 700 to 9,600 Saudi riyals per year.
- The IQAMA fee, which is 650 Saudi riyals per year and can be paid in three equal installments.
- Dependent fee for each dependent the person has, they must pay 400 Saudi riyals per year
- If you are late in renewing your IQAMA, you will have to pay a fine that can be 500 or 1,000 Saudi riyals if it is the first or second time of the offense.
IQAMA vs. Visa: Explaining the Differences
The concepts of IQAMA and visa are different, but they are related to the stay of foreigners in Saudi Arabia. For this reason, if you ask yourself what is the difference between visa and IQAMA, here you will see that answer. A visa is a temporary authorization that is granted to a person by a country. In this way, you will be able to enter and stay within the country for a limited time.
The reason for which a visa is granted is not unique, since these can be granted for tourism, study, work, or visits to relatives. On the other hand, the IQAMA is a residence permit that foreigners living and working in Saudi Arabia must have. In addition, this allows the foreigner to have access to different services and benefits within the country.
Among the services and benefits, you find that you can get a driver’s license, open a bank account and even sign up for health insurance. The validity of the IQAMA is one year and must be renewed before its expiration date. However, if you want to obtain an IQAMA you will need a valid work visa, and an employer is responsible for sponsoring your application.
In addition, the person responsible for filing the IQAMA with the relevant authorities and paying all fees will be your employer. For this reason, even though both allow foreigners to stay inside Saudi Arabia legally, they have different meanings. Thus, foreigners wishing to live and work in Saudi Arabia must be aware of this difference.
Residency through IQAMA: Advantages and Limitations
The residence that is granted through the IQAMA, is the permit granted to those foreigners who live and work in Saudi Arabia. In this way, the IQAMA offers advantages and disadvantages to take into account. Among the advantages that we can find are:
- Allows foreigners to open a bank account, obtain a telephone line, rent a home, register for health insurance, etc.
- It is easier to enter and leave the country. This is because you can apply for a multiple exit and re-entry visa with a validity of up to 6 months.
- You will be able to travel to countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council without the need for a visa, as long as you meet some requirements.
On the other hand, some of the limitations that it will present are:
- The IQAMA is linked to an employer that acts as a sponsor. This will have full control over the legal stay of the foreigner in the country.
- It is valid for only one year and must be renewed before its expiration date. In this way, you must pay rates that can change depending on the sector and nationality of the person.
- Possessing an IQAMA does not guarantee that you can obtain Saudi citizenship. This is because this is for very rare cases that require compliance with very strict requirements.
Comparing IQAMA and Visa: Rights and Duration
The IQAMA and the visa are different documents, but they are related to the legal stay of foreigners in Saudi Arabia. The visa has a limited duration and will depend on the purpose of the foreigner within the country. For this reason, it is important to remember that there are different types of visas and that the government will be in charge of deciding how long it will be valid.
Unlike the visa, which is necessary to enter Saudi Arabia, you have the IQAMA when you are in the country. In this case, to obtain an IQAMA you must have a previous work visa and meet certain requirements that your employer must manage.
The term for a person to obtain the IQAMA is 90 days from arrival in the country. On the other hand, to get a work visa in Saudi Arabia you need an employer to sponsor you and offer you a work contract. Although the employer is in charge of most of the application process, some documents must be provided by you
Among these documents, we can find a passport that is valid and that also has two blank pages. You will need a copy of your diploma or academic certificate, two passport-size photos, a certificate of work experience, etc. In addition, you must complete a visa application form and pay the corresponding fee. Having the work visa, you can request your IQAMA.
Visa Entry: Temporary Stay and Conditions
The entry visa will depend on the type of visa applied for and what country the applicant is from. For this reason, the following visas allow you a temporary stay in Saudi Arabia:
- Tourist visa: With this visa, you can visit the country for leisure, sport, or culture. The duration of this visa is one year and will allow multiple entries, with a maximum duration of 90 days per entry. In this way, you can apply for your visa online or through an authorized travel agency. In addition, you will need a passport that is valid at the time of travel, medical insurance, and a card to pay the fee.
- Business visa: Thanks to this visa you will be able to carry out commercial activities, attend conferences or visit partners. Its duration will depend on the contract or the invitation and will allow one or multiple entries. In addition, a business visa is requested at the embassy of Saudi Arabia or the consulate in your country. On the other hand, to apply for it you need the same as for a tourist visa and a criminal record certificate.
- Transit visa: It will allow you to make a stopover in the country for a maximum duration of 72 hours. You can apply online or upon arrival at the airport. Like the previous visas, you need a valid passport, but here you must present the plane ticket with the confirmation of the destination country. In addition, you must have a visa that is valid for the destination country.
These are parts of the visas that allow a temporary stay in Saudi Arabia, but there are more specific ones. Among these are the pilgrimage visa, temporary work visa, diplomatic visa, etc.